Savory Pumpkin Pies (Bourekia me Kolokytha)

Pumpkin, Fennel and Mint pies are made in Chios and in other islands with and without cheese. The second version is the one for Lenten days, when all foods deriving from animals are banned from the table. Traditionally, the fried bourekia are wrapped in homemade phylo pastry. But since making thin phylo is not an easy task, I have found that spring roll pastry can be an excellent substitute.

For 25 rolled pies

Filling with cheese:
1 cup diced onions
1/3 cup olive oil and additional to brush the pastry
2 ½ cups diced pumpkin or winter squash (about 3/4 pound)
1 fennel bulb, coarsely grated
½ teaspoon Aleppo or red pepper flakes, or black pepper to taste
1/3 cup coarse bulgur
½ cup fennel tops
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup grated myzithra or Peccorino cheese
Sea salt to taste

Filling without cheese:
As above, ommiting the cheeses, plus
1 1/2 cups coarsely ground walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pitted black olives
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
One package (25 pieces) 8-inch square spring roll pastry.
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Olive and safflower oil for frying

In a large skillet warm the olive oil and sautee the onions for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add the pumpkin or squash and fennel bulb, and continue cooking on a high heat, for another 10-12 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Add pepper and bulgur, cook for another 2 minutes and remove from the heat. Add fennel tops and mint, stir, cover and let cool for 15 minutes. Add the cheeses, if being used, or the walnuts, olives and cumin, stir and taste to adjust seasoning. Usually there is no need for additional salt, since the cheeses and the olives are quite salty.

Remove the spring roll skins from the freezer and let thaw. Take one piece of pastry and cover the rest. Place the pastry on a board, longer side facing you, brush with olive oil and add 2 ½ tablespoons of filling, about 1 inch from the bottom and sides of the sheet. Fold the bottom over the filling and also fold about ½ inch on the left and right sides, and start rolling the pastry, somewhat loosely, like a cigar. Brush the edge with egg white to seal, and carefully bend the roll to give it a horseshoe-shape. Continue with rest of the pastry and filling.
In a large and deep skillet or sautee pan, warm about 1 ½ inch olive and safflower oil to about 350 degrees –almost to smoking point, and fry only 2-3 bourekia at a time: it is important that temperature of the oil remains at 350. Turn over and fry until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Bourekia me kolokytha keep well covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them. To reheat, place directly in a preheated 400° oven for about 15 minutes.

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